Vaccinated school-aged children may remain in the classroom if exposed to COVID-19.
When students return to the classroom this fall, those who are fully vaccinated will not be required to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19. The update to the state’s education policy, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced during his weekly press briefing yesterday, follows guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for fully vaccinated adults.
The change, which also applies to higher education institutions, means fully vaccinated students can continue attending school and participating in extracurricular activities. The policy change will minimize education loss, Hutchinson said.
“They will be able to stay in the classroom. They won’t have to quarantine,” he said. “They will be able to continue their education even if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.”
In addition to minimizing disruptions to the workforce which occur when parents take time off to care for children in quarantine, the updated policy also will reduce cancellations and postponements of extracurricular activities.
About 10 percent of Arkansans 12 to 18 years old have been vaccinated and the governor said he wants that number to increase during the summer months. Three COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the United States, but only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in children as young as 12.
“This is not something that should wait to next year,” Hutchinson said. “It needs to be done now for the students. They need to take advantage of that.”
Citing a new CDC study, Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. José Romero reminded the general public COVID-19 is not benign in children. The study looked at a group of 204 adolescents 12 to 17 years old who were infected with COVID-19 and hospitalized. Of those, nearly one third were admitted to the ICU and 5 percent were placed on a ventilator. None of them died.
“The disease is significant and it can result in long-term stay within the Intensive Care Unit,” Romero said. “We know that the vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that we can prevent this type of serious illness.”
The Arkansas Department of Health reported hospitalizations increased by 29 to 204 yesterday. That’s the biggest single day increase since Feb. 7.
Gov. Hutchinson is rewarding employees for their continued hard work during the pandemic with a 3 percent merit bonus for state agencies. The bonus, the largest performance pay amount since Hutchinson became governor, is not a one time bonus and will go into the employee’s base salary.
“This last year our workforce has shown dedication, resilience and flexibility during this pandemic,” he said. “It’s been circumstances that no workforce has been through in the last 100 years.”
Funding for the merit pay includes $11.2 million from the state’s general revenue and $28 million from all sources, which includes federal funding, Hutchinson said.